Internet censorship is the control or suppression of what can be accessed, published, or viewed on the Internet enacted by regulators, or on their own initiative. Internet censorship puts restrictions on what information can be put on the internet or not. Individuals and organizations may engage in self-censorship for moral, religious, or business reasons, to conform to societal norms, due to intimidation, or out of fear of legal or other consequences.
The extent of Internet censorship varies on a country-to-country basis. While some countries have moderate Internet censorship, other countries go as far as to limit the access of information such as news and suppress and silence discussion among citizens. Internet censorship also occurs in response to or in anticipation of events such as elections, protests, and riots. An example is the increased censorship due to the events of the Arab Spring. Other types of censorship include the use of copyrights, defamation, harassment, and various obscene material claims as a way to deliberately suppress content.
Support for and opposition to Internet censorship also varies. In a 2012 Internet Society survey 71% of respondents agreed that "censorship should exist in some form on the Internet". In the same survey 83% agreed that "access to the Internet should be considered a basic human right" and 86% agreed that "freedom of expression should be guaranteed on the Internet". Perception of internet censorship in the US is largely based on the First Amendment and the right for expansive free speech and access to content without regard to the consequences. According to GlobalWebIndex, over 400 million people use virtual private networks to circumvent censorship or for increased user privacy.
A Chinese computer executive was charged in 1998 with "inciting subversion of state power" by providing tens of thousands of Chinese e-mail addresses to "hostile foreign publications.
In 1997 in the USA over 300 Members of Congress sponsored or cosponsored bills regulating interactive businesses. Federal regulatory agencies are endeavouring to implement control of their piece of the Internet, including the FCC, FTC, NTIA, Treasury, Federal Reserve, White House Office of Technology Assessment, the Administration's Interagency Task Force, Patent and Trademark Office. At the international level, the United Nations, International Telecommunication Union, and the World Intellectual Property Organization have each announced their intent to censor Internet content.